MMS Blog

As metalworking trade shows go, Eastec is a little different. The biennial event is hosted in West Springfield, Massachusetts at the Eastern States Exposition Grounds, where it is not uncommon to see livestock in areas not occupied by CNC machining technology. Nonetheless, that technology is sourced globally, and show attendees hail from all over North America and even abroad. Local flavor aside, even a regional show can reveal much about the state of the broader industry.

For one, the show was busy. With initial forecasts predicting 13,000 attendees, Eastec’s more than 700 booths (not to mention vendors’ coffee and food lines) stayed busy for most of the show’s three-day run May 14-16. Attendees seemed optimistic — an anecdotal observation, but one that is in line with recent economic data about the general mood in the industry

For many machine shops today, the most promising avenue of potential expansion is not a new market or an addition to their facilities, but instead the untapped, unstaffed nighttime hours that could be captured for automated, “lights-out” production.

The daytime hours are generally full. Their limit is imposed by staffing. Shops with resources to expand are often challenged to find or develop personnel to keep pace. The answer, then, is equipment with less need for personnel—machines that can run unattended long after the staff has gone home. For many shops, though, equipment such as this represents a new and different type of machine tool than what the shop is accustomed to running, and using the equipment well calls for different assumptions.

By: Anthony Staub 22. May 2019

Making Good Decisions for Your Machine Shop

How do you make decisions? What guides you? Do you have a set of principles or a trusted team that you lean on? Ethics, cost, past experience, future expectations and many more factors can be a part of every decision. Time is important too. Do we need to get a job done as quickly as possible, or do we need to prioritize the long-term impact over short-term gain? We all have a decision-making process, whether we recognize it or not. My decision-making process has changed over the years, and I’ve embraced a strategy that I’d like to share with you. Reflecting on my past decisions has helped me learn how to make better ones in the future.

In my case, I use a variety of criteria to make decisions. The final measure is deciding how I will feel about this decision once I get to my rocking chair. I’m a big proponent of the “Rocking Chair Theory.” There are different versions of this theory, and I like all of them. As I’m sitting in my chair rocking away, I like to reflect on my career and the decisions I’ve made. Not every decision ages the way we think it will—some decisions are decidedly poor, others improve over time and still others simply depend on how you look at them. Experience has shown me that a good decision is one that I can look back on with warm thoughts many years later.

While quite durable and reliable compared to mechanical gages, air gaging is not carefree. Accurate air gaging requires proper tooling maintenance and air supply vigilance.

Let’s start with the foundation of air gaging: the air supply. Shop air is difficult to keep clean and dry. Air dryers are not entirely adequate. The very act of compressing air produces moisture, and a compressor’s need for lubrication inevitably generates some oil mist in the line. Oil and water mist can actually act as an abrasive and cause part wear over long periods of time. Air also can be costly, so don’t let it run unless needed. The goal is simply to prevent mist from entering the gage and fouling the jets. To do this, we must employ proper air-line design to intercept it before it enters the meter.

Over the years, I have acquired a small but diverse assortment of antique sales catalogs and product handbooks for metalworking equipment. These publications from cutting tool and machine tool manufacturers are 80 to 125 years old. The oldest ones are especially remarkable for the illustrations—exquisite images reproduced from hand-engraved plates prepared by highly skilled artisans. In these engravings, the rendering of detail and shading is strikingly realistic. Although these engravings were created as strictly technical drawings to reveal the fine quality of the products and thus persuade the buyer, their aesthetic qualities are timeless. Like signatures of the artist on a watercolor or oil painting, the name of the responsible engraving firm usually appears in a corner or shaded portion of the illustration.

For example, the 1885 catalog of Lodge, Barker & Co., showcases its line of lathes, shapers and drill presses. The engraved illustrations inside perfectly capture the shapes of well-proportioned bases, beds, columns and tables. More remarkable is how the levers, gears, handles, even company name plates, appear in sharp, crisp clarity.

Likewise, for the upright drill presses in the 1888 catalog of the Bickford Drill Co. The individual links in every chain, the teeth on every gear and the steps of every pulley cone are distinct and unmistakable. In fact, the mechanical workings of these machines seem more apparent and intuitive than in some of the photos we are used to seeing today.

RSS RSS  |  Atom Atom